'IwiRail' looks north

Maori Party rail policy ambitious project, restoring Gisborne-Napier line central.

Maori Party rail policy ambitious project, restoring Gisborne-Napier line central.

RAIL TO NOWHERE? The Gisborne Wairoa rail track in March 2013. File picture

RESTORATION of the Gisborne-Napier rail line is at the centre of the Maori Party’s “IwiRail” or rail network development policy, which includes the future construction of a line from Gisborne to Kawerau.

“Let’s concentrate on the Gisborne-Napier line,” said party co-leader Marama Fox when the policy was announced yesterday.

“That will be the proof of the pudding that this will work.”

Mrs Fox, a list MP standing in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti electorate, estimated reopening the Gisborne-Napier line would cost $6.5 million.

Connecting Gisborne to the East Coast main trunk line in Kawerau and bringing back the mothballed Napier-Gisborne rail link alone could bring back more than a thousand rail jobs to the coast, she said.

“One of the key focuses of IwiRail is to bring back the 15,000 rail jobs and apprenticeships that existed before the Labour Government put a hatchet to rail in the mid-1980s,” she said.

Between $350 and $450 million would be needed to make the plan happen.

“That’s only 12 percent of what the Government spends on transport,” she said.

Transport spending was focused on roading in Auckland and other large cities.

IwiRail would also require $100m a year from the Government’s national land transport fund. Iwi in Gisborne had told her they wanted to be involved, and she said other private investors had also shown interest.

Mayor Meng Foon has expressed some support for the reopening of the Gisborne to Napier line.

“We have always advocated fixing the rail line and we hope the Government of the day does," Mr Foon said.

“Any infrastructure spending in our region is good. Just look at the current road closures. We need lifelines open.

“If the line is not repaired, I support the proposed cycle trail from Gisborne to Napier.”

Terry Sheldrake, chief executive of Gisborne Chamber of Commerce, said the proposed rail link to Kawerau seemed “incredibly ambitious”.

“The case for the Gisborne to Napier line has been discussed many times.”

Economic sense

The issue was whether the line made economic sense.

“The Gisborne Chamber is open to consider any business case for the rail line that makes economic sense.”

Meka Whaitiri, Labour MP for Ikaroa-Rawhiti, said the $350m “coalition” funding, would come “presumably from the National Government that mothballed the Napier-Gisborne rail line in the first place”.

“National has spent the last nine years overseeing the decline of regional rail infrastructure and, in that entire time, the Maori Party have sat there at the table alongside them.

“Relying on $350m investment from National to boost rail isn’t a policy; it’s a fantasy.

“Labour has been a strong and vocal advocate for reopening the Napier-Gisborne rail line since it was first mothballed by National in 2012.

“We think an integrated rail system is vital for regional economic development.

“In addition, Labour’s $20m regional investment in prefabricated housing will create much needed jobs in Te Tairawhiti but will also help reduce raw logs leaving our port.”

Green Party view

Julie Anne Genter, Green Party spokeswoman for transport, said the party strongly supported reopening the Gisborne to Napier line.

“We have long supported the reinstatement of the Napier-Gisborne line, as well as completing electrification of the main trunk line including out to Tauranga.”

The country needed a significant change in transport infrastructure investment as the concentration was on on roads. The national land transport fund should fund rail infrastructure, and she said rail needed significant capital expenditure.

Ken Crispin, of the Citizens Environmental Advocacy Centre, said they supported the reopening of the Gisborne to Napier line and the proposed northern line.

“We always look at the social and environmental benefits of every proposal.

“This proposal is sound and protects the community’s health and wellbeing, which is always our over-riding vision.

“We welcome the Maori Party support for reinstating the Gisborne rail link as it should have never been mothballed.”

The Maori Party was joining Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First in rebuilding the rail system. Mr Crispin said numerous plans were drawn up before World War 2 to build a rail line north from Gisborne to Taneatua.

“Now is the time to complete the line north,” he said.

Radio New Zealand reported that Hawke’s Bay Chamber of Commerce chief executive Wayne Walford said the Gisborne to Napier line would need a robust business case.

“At the moment, the main trunk line between Auckland and Wellington isn’t economically viable. The government has to top it up every year. I’m not sure how a regional line is going to be economical.”

Federated Farmers Gisborne-Wairoa president Charlie Reynolds said he liked the idea in principle as long as the money was not wasted.

“Certainly private money will make sure that there’s more profitability in the line, rather than taxpayers continuously financing the operation," he said.

“As for iwi, they certainly play the long term game, so any money they put in, they’ll make sure it returns a profit to their shareholders.”

Mr Reynolds and Mr Walford said they would prefer the Government to invest in better roading.

RESTORATION of the Gisborne-Napier rail line is at the centre of the Maori Party’s “IwiRail” or rail network development policy, which includes the future construction of a line from Gisborne to Kawerau.

“Let’s concentrate on the Gisborne-Napier line,” said party co-leader Marama Fox when the policy was announced yesterday.

“That will be the proof of the pudding that this will work.”

Mrs Fox, a list MP standing in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti electorate, estimated reopening the Gisborne-Napier line would cost $6.5 million.

Connecting Gisborne to the East Coast main trunk line in Kawerau and bringing back the mothballed Napier-Gisborne rail link alone could bring back more than a thousand rail jobs to the coast, she said.

“One of the key focuses of IwiRail is to bring back the 15,000 rail jobs and apprenticeships that existed before the Labour Government put a hatchet to rail in the mid-1980s,” she said.

Between $350 and $450 million would be needed to make the plan happen.

“That’s only 12 percent of what the Government spends on transport,” she said.

Transport spending was focused on roading in Auckland and other large cities.

IwiRail would also require $100m a year from the Government’s national land transport fund. Iwi in Gisborne had told her they wanted to be involved, and she said other private investors had also shown interest.

Mayor Meng Foon has expressed some support for the reopening of the Gisborne to Napier line.

“We have always advocated fixing the rail line and we hope the Government of the day does," Mr Foon said.

“Any infrastructure spending in our region is good. Just look at the current road closures. We need lifelines open.

“If the line is not repaired, I support the proposed cycle trail from Gisborne to Napier.”

Terry Sheldrake, chief executive of Gisborne Chamber of Commerce, said the proposed rail link to Kawerau seemed “incredibly ambitious”.

“The case for the Gisborne to Napier line has been discussed many times.”

Economic sense

The issue was whether the line made economic sense.

“The Gisborne Chamber is open to consider any business case for the rail line that makes economic sense.”

Meka Whaitiri, Labour MP for Ikaroa-Rawhiti, said the $350m “coalition” funding, would come “presumably from the National Government that mothballed the Napier-Gisborne rail line in the first place”.

“National has spent the last nine years overseeing the decline of regional rail infrastructure and, in that entire time, the Maori Party have sat there at the table alongside them.

“Relying on $350m investment from National to boost rail isn’t a policy; it’s a fantasy.

“Labour has been a strong and vocal advocate for reopening the Napier-Gisborne rail line since it was first mothballed by National in 2012.

“We think an integrated rail system is vital for regional economic development.

“In addition, Labour’s $20m regional investment in prefabricated housing will create much needed jobs in Te Tairawhiti but will also help reduce raw logs leaving our port.”

Green Party view

Julie Anne Genter, Green Party spokeswoman for transport, said the party strongly supported reopening the Gisborne to Napier line.

“We have long supported the reinstatement of the Napier-Gisborne line, as well as completing electrification of the main trunk line including out to Tauranga.”

The country needed a significant change in transport infrastructure investment as the concentration was on on roads. The national land transport fund should fund rail infrastructure, and she said rail needed significant capital expenditure.

Ken Crispin, of the Citizens Environmental Advocacy Centre, said they supported the reopening of the Gisborne to Napier line and the proposed northern line.

“We always look at the social and environmental benefits of every proposal.

“This proposal is sound and protects the community’s health and wellbeing, which is always our over-riding vision.

“We welcome the Maori Party support for reinstating the Gisborne rail link as it should have never been mothballed.”

The Maori Party was joining Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First in rebuilding the rail system. Mr Crispin said numerous plans were drawn up before World War 2 to build a rail line north from Gisborne to Taneatua.

“Now is the time to complete the line north,” he said.

Radio New Zealand reported that Hawke’s Bay Chamber of Commerce chief executive Wayne Walford said the Gisborne to Napier line would need a robust business case.

“At the moment, the main trunk line between Auckland and Wellington isn’t economically viable. The government has to top it up every year. I’m not sure how a regional line is going to be economical.”

Federated Farmers Gisborne-Wairoa president Charlie Reynolds said he liked the idea in principle as long as the money was not wasted.

“Certainly private money will make sure that there’s more profitability in the line, rather than taxpayers continuously financing the operation," he said.

“As for iwi, they certainly play the long term game, so any money they put in, they’ll make sure it returns a profit to their shareholders.”

Mr Reynolds and Mr Walford said they would prefer the Government to invest in better roading.

Maori Party policy release

  • IwiRail would take over the leases of key regional lines and work with local communities and iwi to build new rail infrastructure.
  • Up to 10,000 long-term and permanent jobs could be created nationwide and potentially $1 billion added to the country’s balance sheet.
  • IwiRail would provide affordable access and fair prices to train operators and users.
  • Lines would be renamed with ancestral names to boost cultural tourism.
  • Regional lines would remain in local ownership with a mixture of public, private and iwi investment.
  • The lines would not be captured by foreign ownership or commercial interests.

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Paul Thomas - 4 months ago
Well the National Government today just gave $18.5m to replace two bridges on State Highway 7 on the West Coast as part of the West Coast economic action plan! $6.5m to fix the 250km plus Napier to Gisborne railway line is peanuts in comparison! It could be funded tomorrow! But this is a Government of roads and highways, not one that is committed to an integrated land transport infrastructure system! That approach disables our economy and adds in risk - as recent highway closures in the Napier and Gisborne districts have highlighted!!

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